With Phoenix Xavier Prep dominating possession and leading Flagstaff 3-0 at halftime Friday, the match looked all but over.
But then Flagstaff scored two quick goals, and all of a sudden Xavier was hanging on for dear life.
Thankfully, it had Tessa Zaccagnio, and the senior forward knew what to do.
Zaccagnio scored her second goal of the afternoon to provide some breathing room, and Xavier went on to a 4-2 win over visiting Flagstaff in a non-division contest.
Despite her team’s impressive first half, Xavier coach Barb Chura knew Flagstaff (6-3-1), ranked sixth in Division II by azcentral sports, wasn’t about to lie down.
“We even said it at halftime – ‘They’re not going to go away. That team’s never going to quit.’ ” Chura said. “That’s kind of their makeup, and it’s probably why they have a lot of success and do very well, because they fight and they compete.”
That spirit was on display in the second half, when Flagstaff got a pair of pretty goals from junior Shelbie O’Connor, and just like that Xavier (8-1) was only up 3-2 with 21 minutes to play.
Fortunately, that served as a wake-up call for Zaccagnio and her teammates.
“When they got the first one we were like, ‘OK, they can get one, I guess.’ ” she said. “And then when they got the second one, I just got it in my head – I was like, ‘OK, they can’t get any more and we need to score another one.’ “
Zaccagnio didn’t waste much time, finding the net less than two minutes later on a redirect of a ball from senior midfielder Amanda Lane.
Zaccagnio also scored Xavier’s first goal about 16 minutes into the match, not long after she was taken out by the Flagstaff goalkeeper on a rough play outside the box.
The keeper earned a yellow card and Zaccagnio was noticeably limping after the match, though she should be fine to continue a superb season in which she’s recorded eight goals in as many matches for the top-ranked team in Division I.
“Tessa is having a sensational year so far,” Chura said. “She’s probably, if not the best post-up forward out there – I haven’t seen anybody better. As far as posting up and holding the ball with her back to the goal, there’s no one better in my opinion.”
Xavier’s other first-half goals came from senior forward Aida Zerabruk and junior midfielder Sarah Khoilian, at the 20:45 and 13:09 marks, respectively.